Quitting Cold Turkey: The Invention of PEZ Candy Dispensers

PEZThe first US patent for PEZ,  #2,620,061, was issued December 2, 1952 for a Pocket Article Dispensing Container. This patent was for the original design of the PEZ dispenser which was meant to look like a cigarette lighter.

PEZ was invented in 1927 by Austrian food company executive Edward Haas III. The original sugar tablet flavored with peppermint oil was marketed as an alternative to smoking. These candies were sold in tins until 1948 when the first dispensers were introduced. The dispenser shaped like a cigarette lighter was meant to appeal to adult smokers. The name PEZ was derived from the letters at the start, the middle and the end of the German word for peppermint, Pfefferminz, the first PEZ flavor.

In 1952, the Austrian company began importing PEZ to the United States. At this point, the PEZ dispensers and candy were redesigned to appeal to children. Fruit flavored candies and dispensers with character heads were introduced. Disney characters like Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy made their first appearance on the top of the PEZ dispenser in 1962.

PEZ PatentThere are several other US Patents pertaining to the PEZ dispenser.  The new patent number is molded into the stem every time a change is made to the design on the dispenser. Collectors often use the first two digits of the patent number to refer to the design of the dispenser. By looking at the patent number in the stem, a rough age of a dispenser can be determined.

Today, PEZ is a part of popular culture in many countries including the United States. Since 1952, over 550 different PEZ dispensers have been created. Both fictitious and historic characters have had their heads featured on the dispensers. Famous PEZ dispenser designs include Elvis, Betsy Ross and the characters in Wizard of Oz. 4.2 billion pieces of PEZ are consumed every year. PEZ collecting has become so popular that there are even conventions dedicated to the hobby.